Once upon a time I would have said that friendship was a magical connection that was made so rarely that it should be treasured and nurtured. I had a tight inner circle as sacrosanct as that of Arthur’s knights.
My well organised life was full of lovely people and I categorised them into a bewilderingly bizarre, teetering hierarchy. ‘Friend’ was the highest accolade and few made it to those dizzying heights. There were more mundane positions which were easier to fulfill such as ‘people I know’ or ‘people I like’ and even ‘people I like to say hello to’. ‘Nice ladies in shops’ were good for a quick chat as were ‘bus stop people’. I defined my relationships and used these distinctions to keep people at a distance despite being essentially quite lonely. I rarely allowed movement as I was a fan of my slightly melancholy status quo. I left that ivory tower life and jumped headlong into the unknown.
Have I become more breezy. Is it possible that I am easy going. I doubt it. The Asperger Path will always be a challenging route . However, now that I am travelling there is no status quo for me to protect from would be friends and so my relationships do need to be scrutinised into the calcified classifications of before. This means that my use of the word friend has become more generic and as result my life feels a little less complex. I’m still awkward, clumsy and inept and I avoid some situations but I no longer bestow friendship like some coveted prize to be earned like a knight’s spurs. These days I have more friends and my relationships are governed as much by proximity as any other factor.
So if you’re in Battambang, are not a racist, like to laugh and have a reasonable level of intelligence chances are I see you as friend. It is as simple as that.
Last night I had dinner with friends and it was a lovely way to end the long holiday weekend. In other parts of the world people were celebrating Easter but here we are still celebrating the Khmer New Year.
The world can be such a small place and most of the people around our table last night know a friend of mine from the capital city. This link, albeit tenuous, makes me feel a sense of trust belonging that is rare. The Asperger Path tends to shy away from multidimensional relationships and favour black and white labelling and compartmentalisation. Circles of friends are tricky for me. The subtle interrelationships can leave me floundering and lost. However there I was sharing an evening with work colleagues and non work colleagues, friends and partners, homos and straights and I was happy.
I usually prefer my friendships to be like a simple spider diagram. Each friendship separated and independent. Each one stranded out into a straight line. This does not leave me in the centre of anything but does allow an intensity on which I have thrived in the past. I tend to meet a friend and devote my attentions solely to them. Deep conversations are preferable to the lighter chatter of a group setting.
I will persevere with this group. Serendipity has dropped me amongst good-hearted people who I enjoy spending time with. I’m travelling because I wanted to change the life I had. So I will try circles, spirals, wheels as well as the straight lines I am used to.
Sour s’day chhnam th’mei – Happy New Year.
He walked into the café and greeted me as if I had known him all his life. Then, once perched on a stool, held court whilst sipping a dubious tincture over ice. He spoke English with an accent that made every sentence sound like an indecent proposal and slipped easily between his native French, English and Khmer. After an hour he announced his departure, kissed me unexpectedly on both cheeks, and was gone.
A few days later he arrived again at the same bar. This time he swept me into his sphere and held me, captivated. The colours of his character are like oil on water. He is a beautiful and restless fusion like the ethereal shimmerings found in the gritty earthiness of backstreet puddle . He talks only of the present and his dark,velvet curtained past hangs heavy and unmentioned.
He is the perfect ex patriate. Louche and charming like a warm hearted petty criminal from a bad 1930s novel. It’s a small town, and the Barang community is incestuously knitted. He comes with warnings and caveats. He drinks, he gets drunk, he’s rude and he fights. That veiled past has demons that still reach out to trouble his soul. It’s too late. I see his flaws and still I’m drawn. He has a sense of fun that I need in my life and I see a good heart.
I need colour in my world and I am not a fan of the anodyne. If I get tarred with same brush then so be it. I have a new partner in crime and like him I don’t really listen to caveats.
I left home in July 2016. I first went to Australia where I have friends but in January 2017 I moved to Cambodia on my own knowing no one and in reality quite unprepared for life here. My friend, Jeff, almost immediately suggested coming out to visit and so about eight months after leaving Suffolk, a friend from home arrived. He wanted to walk with Asian Elephants which still live in the fast disappearing jungles of Eastern Cambodia. We set off on a lunatic 1500km road journey. On the way we saw rubber and palm oil plantations and the evidence of recent large scale forest clearance. Cambodia seemed scorched and ravaged but finally in the higher lands pockets of jungle came into view. Misty Mondulkiri is under siege but still retains some wonder. There are several rival elephant sanctuaries in Mondulkiri and how wonderful it would be if they were working together. Sadly each is busy proving their credentials by badmouthing the other providers. However this did not blunt my childlike excitement at seeing an elephant wandering through the jungle with a mahout or handler close by. We fed this first elephant bananas but were warned that she was not sociable. Down by the river we found two more elephants and they were far less reserved. My bananas were taken in the trunk and fed into an enormous mouth. It was both scary, brilliant and slightly sad to see these creatures who, before sanctuary life had been terribly mistreated. After lunch and a very comfortable siesta in a hammock, we found a waterfall and bathed with the two more sociable elephants. I can’t say I’ve seen elephants in the wild but I’ve seen them up close and I’ve seen them doing their own thing. I was lucky to do this and even luckier to share this with friend.